Sunday, February 7, 2010

"LOVE is how you stay alive, even after you are gone"

This was the sticker slogan on my take-out coffee cup today. It struck me as fitting, since my ex-barn owner died yesterday. She fought it like a tiger for 2 years but lymphoma won the last round.

We were not close after I moved my horse, but prior to that we rode together and once even traveled together with our horses to the Black Hills for a week of gaited horse camping. We also camped on a memorable Memorial Day weekend when it snowed. that was the night my horse got loose and wandered all around our campsite looking for tasty blades of grass. When I asked if the commotion woke her up she said, "I never really sleep".

She was a true character, like many horse people. She addressed all horses as "Son", even mares, even her own mare. "Ho, Son!"

But when she used a pronoun of a horse it was always "She". This produced some odd conversations.

"I've been watching your horse in the pasture. She's eating too much and getting fat!'

" horse is a gelding!"

"I know, and she is too fat!"

Whenever she had to call a boarder about anything, the first thing she said, even before Hello, was "Your horse is fine!"

When she received the lymphoma diagnosis, she made a project of knitting all the barn girls wool sweaters in their favorite colors. In the depths of chemotherapy, she could be found sitting on the porch in the sun, a scarf on her head, knitting extravagant colors and complex cable patterns.

Throughout the treatments, and the subsequent ups and downs of t-cell counts, she stayed unbelievably cheerful and optimistic. She was looking forward to riding again this spring.

She built the horse boarding business out of the shreds of a wrenching divorce, and subsidized her daughter's career as a riding instructor for two decades. Literally hundreds of horse-crazy kids were able to live their dreams thanks to Rose's hard work: carrying hay, worming 50 horses in a day, enduring the stream of little kids and teenagers with muddy boots in and out of the house all day long year-round.

Love is how you stay alive, even after you are gone. Rose loved horses enough to let them take over every corner of her life and privacy. And she passed on that crazy love to so many 'city kids' who would not otherwise have had the chance to grow up with horses. What a blessing! Well done Rose. Rest and sleep now, excellent cowgirl. The love is alive.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pretty in Pink: "Now Leave Me Alone!"

John's tail is getting chewed by a pasture mate. It's his own fault for standing there and letting it happen, but I put a lightweight blanket on him today to...well, to cover his ass, to put it plainly. Plus it is terribly cold and windy these days so perhaps it will be a comfort.

Here is the reaction:

"Are you really doing this to me? Salmon Pink??!" "John, it was on clearance last spring...I apologize (nyuk nyuk!!)"

"Oh well OK; I look good in just about everything."

Notice the reaction from the Peanut Gallery:

"I'll just casually go get a drink of water..."

Here comes the Evil Tail-Chewer now:

"Oh no you DIDN'T!!"

Incredible Earless Horse:

We shall see how long this blanket lasts...I say goodbye to horse clothing whenever it touches John's back. He is the original Shredder.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

'You Do the Math', says John

Solve for x, where x = total quantity of wormer that got into John's mouth


P = full dose of Pyrantel pamoate,

L = amount John spread on his Lips, face, and halter,

J = amount John added to my Jacket sleeve,


S = amount John managed to Spit out immediately.

x = (P-L-J-S) or
x = bupkus

I can just hear the little worms of northern Minnesota cheering.

For some reason this 'pleasant apple flavor' does not appeal to him and that's putting it mildly. Just look into his eye.

We did have a nice ride prior to this little mathematical exercise in subtraction. We broke snowcrust out to a path the snowmobiles had made.

This was very very hard going for him and he was in a sweat by the time we turned back. So we worked on the outdoor track for awhile to round out the session.

Anybody have tips for getting the wormer into, rather than onto, the horse??

Monday, January 11, 2010

Winter: Terrible Beauty

Everyone is suffering from unusual cold this winter, it seems. Some aspects of winter are just so gorgeous though, even when they are potentially fatal. Here are some winter delights:

1. Salties (seagoing cargo ships) on a misting Lake Superior:

These ships are shaped to have maximum volume and stability while remaining narrow enough to navigate locks and narrow lake port entries. I took this picture from the freeway on a recent morning of 10 degrees below zero.

2. "Wild horses" are clouds of mist that curve up from the lake in extreme cold:

I wasn't able to get a very good photo of them this same day...

3. Winter sunsets can be so colorful:

This view is of the Presbyterian church across the street. This church aggravates me no end because its parishioners park in driving lanes of the road all Sunday morning. Sometimes they partially block my driveway, and Heaven Forbid I be prevented from driving out at a moment's notice! I wrote a complaining letter to their pastor and was ignored. Then I wrote to their Synod and apparently the Synod rang their chimes (don't let me even start about their carillon concerts: "Kumbaya" etc. slightly out of tune at noon and 6 p.m. every, blessed! day) because the ladies of the church gave me a passive-aggressive basket of baked goods with a note about 'good neighbors'. Grr, I lost that battle. Nicey-nice beats crabby-pants every time.

4. My horse grows a goat-beard in winter -- as OnceUponAnEquine and Molly of HolaMole! have noticed!! -- and it is quite spectacular:

5. And finally, here's a 27-second video of our jingle-bell ride today:

Stay warm everyone!!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Winter Work

My wonderful barn owners created an outdoor 'track' for us to ride on!

This was serious tractor work, since the most recent snow (2 feet of it in 48 hours) was followed by a warm 2 days during which the top layer turned to a heavy mantle of ice.

Our whole area is still struggling with this ice legacy, and traffic accidents are still happening a week later even though there has been no additional snowfall.

Anyway they took out their tractor and plowed an oval shaped track in their field, following up with some shavings and chipped stall stuff for traction. John and I enjoyed this yesterday when it was a balmy 18 degrees F., full sun, and no wind WhatSoEver, for almost perfect winter riding conditions.

My only drawback was that I forgot sunglasses, so I was snowblind by the end of our ride. We followed up in the indoor arena and it was to my eyes as dark as night in there...

In this above photo, you can see the arc of the track up and off to the right, and also how deep the snow is. John kept thinking that he'd prefer to take off into the virgin snow. So I let him and he immediately hauled his big horse's ass around back to the track. Breaking through the crust made a sound like....a sack of sand dropping from a great height.

I avoided getting him sweaty but that was pretty easy as he is in tip-top CV condition. I swear he exercises himself in the pasture, because this is not a function of our tight work schedule LOL. Christmas break has been a riding disappointment because of the weather and family commitments.

At one point while we were gaiting along on the new outside track, John just tucked his head like a dragon and squealed. It was the weirdest thing! I got such a vibe of "I feel great!" from him. He shook out his mane and just chugged along.

After this ride I buried my face in his bunny fur neck and just smelled him: warm palomino in the winter sun. Everybody hug your horses because By Golly we are the luckiest humans on this earth, just to have them in our lives.

Here's a tableau of frozen ice-bucket dumps: Winter + horses = serious work.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

150th Anniversary of the Pony Express

"Pony Express", statue in St. Louis Missouri

Thank you to hundreds of good brave horses!

Although it lasted only 18 months, the Pony Express was the Iphone of its time.

Here is a map showing the route traveled by horses and riders in this amazing scheme:

The maximum distance for one horse to travel was 20 miles. This made it necessary for exchange stations to be built at that interval all across the west.

Here's the eastern terminus station, in St. Joseph Missouri, which today houses the official Pony Express Museum:

It was a perfect job for crazy young men, the preferred riders as this poster shows:

"Orphans Preferred."

If it was so dangerous for the riders, what about the horses? There is very little information on equine injuries and fatalities from Pony Express work. But we can imagine that the primacy of speed took its toll, along with the rough terrain.

The first Pony Express run in 1860 was actually a race, with riders setting out simultaneously from Sacramento California and St. Joseph Missouri in a dead heat to exceed one another to the midpoint.

Here's a statue from Sacramento which shows the iconic Pony Express pose: horse at maximum effort, ragged rider urging even more speed.

The Pony Express was done in by the invention of the telegraph, and this painting shows a rider waving happily to a work crew placing telegraph poles:

Another example of an episode in horse and human history, where horses did a great but difficult and dangerous job, then were relieved of that job and became a little less essential to human purposes: a mixed blessing for the horse.


This particular Pony Express station, in Hollenberg Kansas, is believed to be haunted. Brave night visitors claim to hear the sounds of frantic hoofbeats, and the cries of messengers calling for their exchange riders, on moonlit nights.

I imagine these Express horses, tough and lean as their young riders, enjoying the job and the sense of purpose even while they endured the discomforts of fatigue and thirst and sore muscles. Horses do love to have a job. So I send a big thank you out to all the noble horses who ran their legs off so that Aunt Sadie in California could hear about her new niece in Indiana, or Californians could read the inaugural address of political newcomer President Abraham Lincoln. Rest in peace, sweet ponies.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010!! Horsey New Year Resolutions

Solitary Deer Tracks in Snow, Cloquet River December 22 2009

My last ride of 2009 yesterday was a thoughtful one. I pondered the path I would take with my horse through the unknown territory of 2010. I thought about the past year, and consolidated some New Year's Resolutions.

1. Slow Down.
Too often I bring my human time frame to interaction with my horse. Hurry up! I only have an hour. come on come on come on. On to the next thing! What's the matter with you? Come ON you big lunkus!
I believe horses need time to let things settle in their minds. Not to mention, time to turn those big long bodies around and co-ordinate 4 feet in space they often can't see (directly behind them).
When I consciously take a Zen minute and let John just breathe, he is so much quicker. When I give the 1-2-3 prepare-prepare-ask sequence, he is so much more ready to move out. So that's #1 for me. Slow It Down.

2. Spend time with John on the ground. Because John is in many ways an easy horse - quiet, mellow, and trustworthy - I tend to take advantage. As in, a few licks of a curry, slap the saddle on and ride. Get done riding, drag the saddle off, few slaps with a brush and off to the pasture.
Then of course I complain and whine about his ground manners. Well my own manners can be pretty bad when I think about it. He's not a faucet to turn on & off.
With my thoroughbred, who could be more of a spooky dancing handful at times, I did hours of ground work and never really let up on that. He needed the parameters outlined in bright light, in order to relax and work. Well, John deserves some of that too.

3. Keep up with the 3 B's (Buff, Bendy, Bootylicious Regime) and improve overall fitness of us both. Good Lord I ate too many cookies over the past week! And maple pumpkin cheesecake, and pistachio fluff, fruitcake, and bourbon fudge...I could go for some of all this right now.
John has slimmed down a bit over the past month as the temperature drops and he begins to burn his stored fat to keep warm. That doesn't work so well for me somehow har har...but the gym works, and walking works. Since there is almost nothing I can't turn into a shopping opportunity, I've ordered some ice cleats for my boots and so, pretty soon I can't use "Oooh I might slip on the ice!" as an excuse not to walk my dogs.

Who are here shown eating gift-wrap tubes, their sick little addiction:

So those are my horsey 2010 resolutions, only 3 of them so I hope my brain can remember them all.

Happy Trails to you in the New Year! May all your days in the year ahead be filled with light and grace, and may good horses lead you always to beautiful new horizons!